Appreciating Music Scientifically

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Though I long ago realized the actual processes of science bore me in a way even Ben Stein never managed, the things it discovers are fascinating, which is why I love Mary Roach and the Introducing series of academic comic books.

But lately, my heart has been stolen away from them by a show called Radiolab on WNYC. If you haven't heard it yet, it's easily the most compelling show on radio, not just because they're willing to do hour-long shows on subjects like famous tumors, but because the audio production of the show itself straddles the line between informational documentary and sound art.

An episode I caught recently was on Musical Language, and had features about perfect pitch within Mandarin speaking populations and the effects that Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had on people's brains when it premiered in 1913.

Some people don't like to think about or discuss music for fear that it will somehow corrupt the abstract and intangible nature of what appeals to them about it. I'm exactly the opposite. Learning about how computer programs were able to map and emulate the unique styles of classical composers or how babies respond to music was a new complexity that only made music more wonderous and made me more in tune with what I love about it.